With Ellen Durstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Alfred Lutter III, Billy Green Bush, with Harvey Keitel Jodie Foster, and Diane Ladd.
“So who’s stoppin’ ya?… Pack your bags; I’ll take you to Monterey… I don’t give a damn about that ranch.”
-David (Kris Kristofferson)
Alice Hyatt is on her own. Her dominant husband (Billy Green Bush) just died in a car accident and Alice her young son Tommy (Alfred Lutter III) are left to fend for themselves. Alice then embarks with Tommy to travel to Monterey so Alice can start a career as a singer.
Alice arrives in Phoenix where she gets a job at a bar singing and she meets a young and suave man named Ben (Harvey Keitel). Alice starts to feel like she’s beginning to stabilize her life. Things seem to be going well with her singing in a bar and her relationship with Ben.
Ben’s wife eventually shows up and asks Alice to stop seeing him. Alice is unaware that Ben was married and she is mortified. Ben shows up at Alice’s hotel room. He demands to be let in and when he’s not he busts open the door and chases after his wife, knocking her to the ground and kicking her out of the door. He then turns his rage on Alice and begins screaming at her and threatens her with fatal violence. Harvey Keitel is frightening in this scene.
Alice once again picks up and now travels to Tucson where she gets a job at a diner. Diane Ladd is the matriarch of the diner and Alice reluctantly allows Ladd to take her under her wing. She meets David (Kris Kristofferson) who is the embodiment of the ideal man who walks through fire to court Alice.
Alice’s son Tommy meets a girl a little older then him (Jodie Foster) and the two of them begin to pal around and muse about life together. I can’t stress this enough, but Alfred Lutter is amazing in this film. I am so impressed with his acting.
This is a film that was a passion of Burstyn’s. She found the script and wanted to make the film more than anything. She was looking for a young and creative director to make the film, she phoned Francis Ford Coppola to get his advice and he told her to watch the film “Mean Streets”. Scorsese was quickly hired to direct the film and asked Burstyn to teach him about women.
This is the first film to deal with the woman’s movement – dealing with the independence of women. The entire point of the film is that a woman can support herself, that she can survive without a man and still raise her son on her own. Ellen Burstyn gives one of the best performances that I have ever seen (which she won an Oscar for). She is absolutely delightful in this film.
The acting in this film is what stands out above the screenplay and Scorsese’s direction. Burstyn gives a great performance that is so symbiotic with the other actors in the film. Alfred Lutter who plays her son is such a wonderful actor and holds his own against Burstyn. Harvey Keitel is just tough as nails (when isn’t he?) and Kris Kristofferson brings the house down.
The climactic showdown between Burstyn and Kristofferson in the diner is a wonderful scene. The dialogue is so rich and real – it makes us completely understand both of these characters. Emotion just flows out of both of these two great actors and we are completely taken by them the entire film. We are rutting for Alice to get to Monetary – yet we are rooting for David to get Alice to stay and live with him on his ranch.
This film is very important for women’s liberation – but I also think it’s a film about wanting/needing/deserving a second chance. I’m not sure what to call this genre but it’s very important and it’s very surreal.
This film is brilliantly crafted by Scorsese’s direction. Even though this isn’t a personal film for Scorsese, he puts his own label on it. He makes it his own. The opening credit sequence is a wonderful homage to “The Wizard of Oz” and the long takes and steady cam shots that Scorsese uses lets us know it’s his film without us knowing it’s his film.